There have been questions about creatine since 1832, the year a crazy French chemist named Michel Cheveul discovered the acid in skeletal muscle.

Fast-forward 160 years … Creatine monohydrate hit the supplement shelves in 1992. Since then, people have clamored for creatine and the questions have proliferated: Parents wonder if it's safe; curious consumers wonder how it works; and lifters wonder how much to take at what times and with what liquids.

If you're ready to have your creatine questions answered in a simple, straightforward, no BS manner, you're in the right place. I'm about to tell you everything you need to know (and nothing you don't) about creatine: what it is, how to use it, safety, loading, side effects and more. Just listen, learn and apply!

1. What Is Creatine?

Creatine is a nitrogenous organic acid derived from the amino acids glycine, arginine, and methionine. Skeletal muscle contains 95% of all creatine. The heart, brain and testes hold the remaining 5%.

2. How Does Creatine Work?

According to David Sandler, the Senior Director of Education for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), "Creatine allows you to have a longer and larger work volume. It helps you get one more rep. Supplementation can increase phosphocreatine and creatine stores by 10-to-40%."

3. Why Does Creatine Work?

According to Jose Antonio, Ph.D., a professor at Nova Southeastern University and CEO of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, "Creatine serves as a fuel source for rapid exercise through increased phosocreatine (PCr) stores."

4. Who Should Use Creatine?

Quite simply, anyone looking to increase lean body mass, boost strength, and increase anaerobic performance should supplement with creatine.

Dr. Antonio explains, "To date, creatine is clearly the single most effective dietary supplement for enhancing gains in anaerobic performance as well as increasing lean body mass and muscle fiber size."

5. Does Creatine Help You Build Muscle?

Yes! Specifically, research suggests that creatine offers these benefits:

  • Increases fat-free mass
  • Improves maximal strength (as measured by 1RM bench press)
  • Improve muscular endurance
  • Increases anaerobic power and performance (shown in many activities, including continuous jumping, jump squats, knee extensions, and repeated sprints by soccer players)

6. Does Creatine Help You Lose Fat?

Yes! Creatine helps you gain and retain metabolically-active lean muscle tissue, which makes it an indirect fat burner.

Put simply, the more muscle you have on your body, the harder you can work in the weight room, and the more calories you can burn both during and after your training sessions.

Plus, creatine also helps elevate your metabolism more directly, through its hydration properties. "A well-hydrated cell tends to be more metabolic," said Dr. Antonio.

7. How Much Creatine Should I Take?

Take 3-6 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for maintenance.

8. What Is Creatine Loading?

For the fastest possible benefits, take 10-to-20 grams of creatine monohydrate daily for 7-to-14 days. This is known as the "loading" phase and will shorten the time necessary to see results from creatine.

After the loading phase, move onto the maintenance phase discussed above.

9. When And Why Should I Load Creatine?

You don't necessarily need to load creatine. It will work just as well after taking a maintenance dose consistently for about 4 weeks. However, when you want a shortcut, creatine loading can produce benefits within 2 weeks.

10. How To Cycle Creatine?

Most people don't have to worry about this issue. Continual use offers continual performance benefits.


11. Does Creatine Make You Retain Water?

Creatine does help your cells retain water, which is good for performance. This can, however, give you a higher body weight.

So fighters and other weight-class athletes may need to cycle off creatine from time to time - especially 6 weeks before a weigh-in.

12. How Much Water Should You Drink with Creatine?

According to Dr. Antonio, "The literature shows 4 ounces of water for every 3 g of creatine."

13. What Is The Best Type Of Creatine?

Alan Aragon, MS, and nutritional contributor to Men's Health and consultant to the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings, and Anaheim Ducks, notes: "Creatine monohydrate is definitely the way to go. Not only is it less expensive than other forms, but it's actually been shown to have better bioavailability."

14. Is Creatine Safe?

According to Dr. Antonio: "Creatine is perhaps THE most studied ergogenic aid in history. And the science clearly suggests that there are no harmful side effects of creatine supplementation. There is no evidence that it causes muscle tears, harms the kidneys, causes dehydration or myriad other silly myths. If these side effects occur, show me the science!"

15. Does Creatine Cause Cramps?

No! Jose Antonio describes another study performed during one season of NCAA Division I-A (FBS) football training and competition:

"It was discovered that creatine users had significantly less cramping; heat illness or dehydration; muscle tightness; muscle strains; and total injuries than non-users. Thus, even for athletes who are well-trained, it is clear that regular creatine consumption does not cause harm, and in fact may have a protective effect against certain exercise-related issues."

16. Is Creatine Safe For Teenagers?

Yes, and it's also effective. Research suggests that creatine improves strength and performance in teenagers who were already in shape and highly-trained for their sport. Of course, users should always look at label directions and follow manufacturer's suggestions when considering creatine.

17.  Creatine Safe For Women?

Yes, women looking to get stronger and build a leaner, more athletic body can safely take creatine.

About the Author

Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello

Nick Tumminello is a Baltimore-based personal trainer and owner of Performance University who works with physique competitors, elite athletes...

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